Is "Text Speak" Appropriate in Education?

“OMG. W8, srsly? LOL! :)”



Most people are familiar with abbreviations like these, along with a whole slew of others by now. Known as short message service (SMS) or “text speak,” language shortcuts allow us to keep informal communications brief and to spend less time composing them. Our fast-paced lives and the nature of the small touchpads on most hand-held devices have made language shortcuts not only helpful in getting information across, but also perfectly acceptable in many environments. Adding further encouragement to shorten words is the fact that social media sites, like Twitter, limit the amount of characters that can be used in each post.

But where is the line drawn between what is acceptable for personal use, and what is acceptable for use in our educational (and professional) lives?

In 2006, The Scottish Qualifications Authority was ridiculed for allowing students to use text language in exams as long as their answers were correct. "No wonder employers are complaining about the lack of skills…when students are allowed to pass their exams using text language,” Scottish politician Murdo Fraser told the Daily Mail.

Sentiments like the above are being expressed more and more often by those who are concerned that as education and technology merge, grammar and spelling have taken a back seat – and that proper English may be devolving before our very eyes. According to a 2011 report conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the average teenager is now sending and receiving 60 texts a day. Can we expect them to understand when it is appropriate to use emoticons, all lowercase, and lack of punctuation?

A 2012 dissertation written by Davis Dessie of Walden University discusses a group of collegiate English instructors who reveal that although they make efforts to help students understand why text speak is inappropriate in educational settings, it often shows up nonetheless in writing assignments. The emergence of this bad habit is even less surprising as it pertains to online courses, many of which incorporate discussion forums that are often accessed from mobile apps. Dessie’s research leads him to assert that as text messaging becomes a dominant communication form, students are developing a “new literacy” that needs to be recognized and factored in to the delivery of courses.

Text speak has become an issue outside of the classroom as well, with a US News article that says using text speak is one of the top ten mistakes interns make on the job. Australian Etiquette expert Jodie Bache-McLean told the Herald Sun that employees should keep in mind the kind of message they want to send to others while at work. “When you are emailing someone from a high-end company, you don’t expect to get a little smiley face and wink back on an email,” she said.

So, can the “new literacy” be recognized without sacrificing proper English?

This writer believes it’s okay to use text speak all the time… jk. ;)

Written By: Lorelei Meetze
Lorelei is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

Questions? Talk with an Advisor